Dear Joe

Standard

I’ve always wondered who you imagine me to be, in your head. Because much like I know you mostly through mom and dads recaps, reading abstracts of your scientific papers and vague childhood memories combined with yearly visits with screaming children at the forefront, I know it cant be very accurate. I know from the last visit that you don’t really understand much of what’s wrong with me, or how that impacts my life, and really, I don’t either. But what has become clear is that your mental version of me has little to do with the reality of my life right now. I wonder if the same is true for me with you?

I was put on thorazine recently, because sounds became louder than they were, louder than they could be, louder than any single thing and instead a chorus of many. Colors got brighter, brighter, brighter, until the ceiling started to look pink and it got a bit unnerving.

Thorazine is an anti psychotic medication, with the benefit of being an extreme tranquilizer as a side effect. Its always hard to say how much of these things is caused by my seemingly incessant state of extreme sleep deprivation, and how much is part of a bipolar symptom. I think the general conclusion is a little bit of column a, little bit of column b.

Thorazine is the brand name. My psychiatrist only refers to it by its generic name, and im unsure if this is because its simpler or if he was hoping I wouldn’t look into a seemingly innocuous name of yet another drug I shove in my body – which, to be fair, its rather surprising I did, given my current state. But I did. Apparently it’s the first, like the literal first, anti psychotic medication ever produced. There’s whole songs written about ‘thorazine dreams’ and ‘the thorazine shuffle’ and all those good dead and drooling side effects that characterize all patients who took it for decades. This is oddly not much of a deal to me. I think, at my stage, you don’t get to think about quality of life in the same way as the average person. Yes, taking this may cause all sorts of things, but are those sorts of things worse than seeing in technicolor acid trip swirls or thinking a song played through a grocery store speaker was the universe trying to send you a message? Because I feel like there’s a tipping point that comes after that that I don’t want to see.

I’m very clearly losing my grip on interpreting my reality correctly. I am not, however, actively psychotic, because I catch myself, to an extent. Like I know the ceiling should not be pink, as I know it is not painted pink, and I can usually make that logical connection. Therefore I am in, as my doctor says, “the funky stuff”.

Possibly the most frightening realization Im having is that I can understand how delusions work now. Its not something that sort of… appears and you suddenly believe you’re Christ and think you can save the world, or whatever the fuck the stereotypical thing of delusional people is. It’s the little things.

I was at the grocery store with mom, because I live with them now, because I cant function as a human. Not sure if anyone told you that yet. My apartment remains but I don’t exist in it and the idea of it makes me a bit uneasy. But I digress. The grocery store. Mom wondered away to get lemon and left me with the cart and the task of getting yogurt. I was very… alarmed inside. My doctor calls it heightened sensory perception, which is how he explains the Technicolor and such, but I wasn’t seeing things. I was just very alarmed, and suddenly very, very frightened. And I tried to reason with myself as I pushed the cart the 10 feet to the yogurt section, my fingers gripped around the cart handle, but people were in the way and I couldn’t get there and the fear just escalated so quickly. And I know you think I mean anxiety, but I don’t. I mean pure fear. Like falling out of a ten-story window accidentally.

Then suddenly I hear the store radio start playing a Billy Joel song. One of the ones mom used to play in the kitchen while we (well, I) was little. It was like a tidal wave of comfort. I felt for sure the universe was trying to provide me comfort. To take the fear away from me, personally, that this event was someone meaningful beyond mere coincidence. Part way through the song mom showed up and I was following along behind her sort of half mumbling the words to the song, catching my breath, basking in the sweet relief. She had no idea any of this happened. The song changed to something I didn’t know, and I swear to god I felt like the universe had abandoned me. Hit like a ton of bricks. Mom asks if I need to go outside but I tell her I just need to stay by her now, and she continues about her shopping while I snap back into reality enough to realize what the fuck was happening and how my brain was rebelling against logic without me. She doesn’t know any of that happened. I took an abnormally long time trying to pick a breakfast cereal. My eyes were probably really wide and I probably talked sporadically, but I don’t think shed have noticed much at all.

And isn’t that scary? That you don’t notice?

But the scary part for me is that I can see the logical connection to those feelings and normal rational feelings I would have had in that situation if I were just, say, anxious. Music is one of my calming tools it is what I do to distract myself from my other senses or to cheer myself up. That song making me feel better wasn’t illogical. But it didn’t make sense.

That’s now a thing I haven’t to consider more than I really know how. Over or under pathologizing behaviour isn’t very helpful but believing the universe is speaking to you isn’t exactly a symptom you can let slide, when you’re able to recognize it as a symptom.

So I take thorazine. It makes me sleep, so the sleep deprivation is gone, but the “funky stuff” still lingers so the dose is being increased. Although this stuff would usually be considered part of a manic episode, the fact that I’m also horribly depressed for large swaths of time indicate it’s a mixed episode. In other words, we have barely scratched the surface of the emotional well of crazy that is your sister.

I wonder how much that mental image of me has changed now. Do we know each other well enough that this is just a thing about me, or is it starting to define me, more than you want it to?

 

I got into grad school

Standard

I found out like a 2 weeks ago, while I was in Philly.  I told my parents, without too much bluster, and they told Joes family, and we celebrated, kinda, a little, while we were there (there were lots of things happening, Joe got tenure! its easter! its my birthday! im having a mental breakdown!).. so it was a bit of a weird reception…. and then… then I didn’t tell anyone. At all. And theres quite a bit of story to tell in that. But for once, I’m just going to keep that seperate.

This is my thing.  This is THE thing I have been trying to do for years. And I got in. I got in with a scholarship that completely covers my tuition.

I just want that to breathe. I want that to be the part of this I go back and read about in the future.

And I know that getting in and going to school does not mean that I will finish it, or that I will do well. Hell, it doesn’t even mean I will successfully complete the stats refresher course I have to take before starting the program.  And I know my therapist thinks this is a horrible idea, and I know he might be right. I know these past 2 years have basically been an example of exactly how I am not invincible to the socioeconomic effects of mental illness, and that it is not unlikely that I will spend large amounts of my future in some combination of unable to work, living in poverty, working sporadically, and maybe just feeling accomplished to hold a job of any kind.  and I get that. But I’ve also decided I can’t just let that truth dictate my goals. There is a solid argument that I shouldn’t do this, one my therapist has made many times, one that mostly surrounds failing and making myself sicker. But the financial impacts of trying are pretty small – thanks to scholarships – and I think the benefit of trying will outweigh the prospect of failing. I would forever regret not trying.

So this is it. This moment is a culmination of every fibre of perseverance, strength and that nagging sense of hope in my soul.

I’m going to grad school.

 

mental illness, society, guilt & holidays

Standard

so i have a strange feeling. its going to take awhile to get to, but hear me out.

i am a mentally ill person. i read a lot of mental illness blogs. i have a lot of mentally ill friends. i have even more mentally ill advocate “friends” on facebook.

and i recognize that this is a shitty shitty time of year for the vast majority of them. i wish there was something to be done about that, but for the most part there isnt. i cant replace family, or be the accepting parent, or give them a day off from the blinding depression so they dont feel guilty about not feeling happy, or whatever, that is the cause of the shitty shitty feelings. society has built this time of year into something it isnt: joyous, perfect, shiny and bright, filled with only happiness and love. and thats shitty, for everyone. because you always feel like you arent living up to a standard that doesnt exist. and it makes your strained relationships with people feel soul crushing and awkward, it makes your depression stand out that much more by comparison, it causes you to evaluate your situation not just against everyones perfect instagramed selves but also against like every possible media posting, church preaching and news outlet depiction. and theres no life, no matter how seemingly perfect, that lives up to that standard. and the more you feel like you have to, the further away from it you get. its fucked up and it fucks things up.

for years growing up i kind of hated christmas. i mean, i was still a kid who got gifts, because i come from a privileged background of sorts, so i cant say it was entirely bad or that i hated every part of it. but my memories are EXTREME STRESS FOR AN ENTIRE MONTH. i remember bawling, multiple times a day, every christmas, for multiple reasons: for years before some very intensive therapy i really resented my family and a lot of my childhood and especially my brother, and my parents for not saving me. i felt robbed of something, like there was a harsh disconnect between me and them despite all this togetherness and seemingly tv family activity. and i felt guilty. when i was little i felt left out by my family and siblings because they were all older and never wanted me around while they did teenage to adult age things so i was alone when i felt like i was supposed to be taking part. and i felt lonely and like i was doing something wrong. there were crowds and crowds of people that i didnt really know and or there were so many people i couldnt breathe, or move, and id have huge panic attacks locked in a washroom somewhere. my family also has a very strange insular dynamic where for the entire week between christmas and new years, and even a few days before christmas, we were expected to be with family, and only family, and not have outside lives so it was this constant constricting force (this is still true when any family member visits). then there were other factors, like my father having an extremely high stress level and very short fuse when he was working at his high level job, that made him angry and awful a lot and christmas added to that stress level to the point where hed be flipping out all the time and he just hated it. he hated it a lot and you could tell; and he made you hate it a little too, because you felt like the cause of his anger. and then my brother didnt live in the country anymore, so it simultaneously became an even more hyped up occasion if he was coming home and also this awkward, disappointing, land of confusion and abandonment the years he didnt. and then we were all awkward ages and three of us kids were dealing with mental health issues of varying severity, and my mother’s severe social anxiety would go into overdrive and her bordering on eating disorder tendencies would come out, and my dad and whatever shit he was going through that never came up. and then there were those years were my brother had a severe eating disorder no one talked about, which made christmas especially difficult for him, and by extension, my sister and i, as we would look at my parents to fix it, to do something, and they didnt. and we didnt.

and theres a lot of things i could say or delve into that would better explain how christmas can be sort of horrible, and how it was sort of horrible. and i think that almost everyone has those stories, for whatever reason.

but this year, i dont have those feelings. and i feel really, really guilty about it, somehow, when i read all these blogs and facebook posts and talk to my friends who i know are in the middle of all this shit.

because christmas is shit. if we are honest, the average experience of christmas is stress, obligation, dread and anxiety. and i feel like im now somehow perpetuating the joyful stereotype of the day, because my life this year has been very… on point for societal views of the season. and i feel like im betraying my people.

i feel like that a lot when i talk about good things as wholly good. and thats really kind of a strange fucked up thing. like i feel guilty when my mental illness isnt at the forefront ruining everything for me because i know it is for so many people and i dont want to be that thing. and everyone with a mental illness knows what that thing is. the thing people without a mental illness (or sometimes we as people with mental illnesses) point to, sometimes meaning it in a positive ‘you can do it too!’ manner, sometimes meaning it as a ‘she can do it, you fucking loser’ manner, as a person who has suffered through your thing and is not “ruining” or causing “discomfort” or being “abnormal” or otherwise breaking social norms by being themfuckingselves. because we, as mentally ill people, cause discomfort. it is somehow our job to reduce ourselves, to placate other people, with our pretending. with our moulding to societal expectations. being unabashedly mentally ill is a political act. and thats fucking so hard to explain. that being mentally ill is a thing, its ok, to be yourself. to feel your feelings, to have your symptoms. to not be okay. and we dont need all these things glowing and pointing all around us to remind us that we arent being enough by being ourselves. be yourself. your whole fucking messy, uncomfortable, societal ideal failing self.

so i dont know what to do. and maybe this is part of why ive never written much when ive been doing well. i feel guilty for being that thing, sometimes.

part of it comes from all the public speaking i used to do. being mentally ill in a spotlight is very strange, because you’re only really in the spotlight for that stuff when youre doing well. so then no matter what you are saying, youre sort of normalizing mental illness as something removed from the symptoms. because people arent seeing symptoms, they are hearing that they happened and then starring at this person they dont equate with those things, because they are functional seemingly normal people, and thinking “wow, shes come a long way” or “im so glad thats over for her” (both of those things have been said directly to me after more generalized mental illness speeches) and they treat you like youve magically become better. like you have a secret and like other mentally ill people could find it if they too tried as hard as you did.

this is partially because some people go through one serious bout of depression, usually brought on by a very specific set of circumstances, from which they are able, through the help of temporary medication and some serious help, to get out of, and they do overcome that depression and they dont fall back into it. and then these people talking about being mentally ill. and maybe this is a jackass thing to say, but they arent. they are people who have suffered from depression, but they are not chronically mentally ill. and somehow, people think this is the norm for mental illness. it is not.

so. im sorry if you are going through shit. i am sorry if i am presenting a view of life right now like its gotten better! ta da! im sorry if this has been a thing for you to compare things to, that makes you feel worse. and im sorry that i feel sorry for not being sick enough. that is a weird, unhelpful feeling to put out into the mentally ill universe.

so let me say this, to ease my conscious, to normalize, to give perspective, or context, or whatever it is, to my last few posts.

-ive have had an extremely relaxed, low key, family oriented christmas. i am happy. it has been joyous and full of love and happy things. i didnt feel stressed, or cry, or feel crushed by the weight of something that wasnt there. i do miss my grandma, but it is ok. i feel ok. there was a noticeable lack of stress. it has been exceptional. i am very lucky. this is true.

-my family, every single member except my oldest brother, have gone through therapy. my sister and i have gone through a lot of therapy, myself going on 8 years with the same psychologist, and several misc attempts before that. we did family therapy. my brother did ocd specific therapy. we have recognized that there is a problem (or many, layered interacting problems) and worked on ourselves and also our family dynamic, from many different angles, for a decade and a half. we are a family that puts family above everything else, for whatever reason, and we have worked through some pretty serious trauma and family shit to get to where we are at. many people have said i have a “tv family” in recent years, and there is some truth to that, now, but i cant underscore enough that this was not always the case.

-i am still very conscious of my mental illness. it is a fibre of my being. it dictates many of my life choices, even when im well. i  plan around it like it is a child that i must take care of. when im sick its an infant and when im well its a grown up that you never stopped worrying about. it is always present to some degree. it will come back full force, sometime. i am not fixed.

-my family does not completely do stereotypical christmas. particularly around gift giving. my father strongly believes that we should help each other when we need help, year round, not on a misc day of the year where we buy each other shit because we are obligated to do so. he also hates shopping, malls, and generally the public in the month of december. so he has opted out. my parents dont exchange gifts. my siblings and i dont exchange gifts. occasionally my brother will send something up if he finds something he thinks one of us would really enjoy, because we dont see each other, and he is very wealthy. my sister loves the idea of giving people things at christmas, so sometimes she will give things, usually to me or my parents, and usually not expensive but very thoughtful (see: the christmas miracle tape). she also makes food based christmas stockings for everyone with my parents money. i usually help her. if we all happen to have spare cash and my parents actually need something, we will buy it for them, because they do a lot for us and are not at a point in their lives where they need much from us during the year (this year my brothers were the only ones with money, and they bought my parents a set of glasses because they needed them. in previous years we all had a lot of money and bought them a washing machine when theres broke a week before christmas. most years they get nothing.). my mom usually buys my sister and i a few items because she knows we are struggling financially and she wants us to have something to enjoy. but basically there is absolutely no pressure to get anyone anything, to spend money we dont have, or to brave overcrowded shopping malls. we feel zero guilt about this. moreover, the members of my family with children can afford gifts for their children. this combination is a luxury few people have.

at the end of the day, my point is writing about feeling normal is hard for me, for strange reasons. and i feel guilty sometimes when things work out for me, and i dont know why. its almost the same feeling i had when i was very depressed and someone i knew got cancer, and all i could think was ‘why couldnt i take the burden instead?’. i just. i feel like an outsider sometimes. like im looking in on the lives of people and i know what they are going through and i feel helpless. probably like my parents feel about me.

why am i the one that gets the good period?

fucked up question right?

maybe only other seriously suicidal people will understand. maybe no one will. maybe this is all crazy gibberish. i know it will come back, but it feels unfair that i get to be this ok, for this long, and so many people dont.

im sorry.

 

it’s a reindeer round up, at the north pole corral

Standard

i had this tape when i was little called like “christmas is for children” or something. it was white with blue lettering that i can picture perfectly but im unsure i was ever actually able to read before the writing got all half worn off, so i cant be 100% sure thats actually what it was called. this tape included such classics as “reindeer round up” (its a reindeer round up, and the north pole corral, theyll be hitchin up that sleigh any day now dun dun dun dun) and something i thought was called “i think that i like christmas” (in which an angry old man is taught to love christmas by a group of carolling kids). that is basically the entirety of my memory of this tape, but i LOVED it. thoughts of it make my insides smile.

my sister and i had all kinds of christmas traditions; she is very big on traditions and has been since we were little, so these traditions lasted well past when they should have (see: us reading each other old childrens christmas books [barbapoppas christmas!] on christmas eve when i was a teenager. see also: going to mcdonalds every christmas eve for the first 20+ years of my life because when my siblings were little and lived in the boonies they would stop at mcdonalds on the drive in to see my grandparents), and we used to listen to this tape all through december. im sure it was a welcome break, at first, from the fred penner i blared at full volume to sleep when i was 2 and/or the backstreet boys first album (which, in case you were wondering, came out a few years earlier and is a completely different album than the first one released in the states. im sure you were wondering.) i blared to go to sleep by the time i was 8 or so. and then there was that hanson obsession… basically ive been blaring music to go to sleep since before headphones were really a thing. but i digress. we listened to it every christmas until way past when it was acceptable to own a tape player, until somehow the tape just disappeared and no one really noticed because we dont have any way to play them anyway. so now amy and i just sing random lines of a country themed christmas song at each other while sounding slightly deranged.

this tape, for obvious reasons, is not located on itunes or google play music. because it is literally the weirdest thing and i cant imagine it was ever popular. and, as amy found out, because it was a give away tape produced by the ontario lotto commission in 1984, and was all songs by local ontario singers with zero budget, hence why there were literally no actual christmas carols on the tape. (how a tape from the ontario lotto commission, produced two years before my birth, made it into my tiny little nova scotian hands remains a mystery).

but my sister. my sister is really good at interneting. the best, really. id wager money on it. so she found a site that used to have the tape on it, run by a guy who would go to thrift stores and digitize/upload random vintage tapes. the site was no longer functional because the government doesnt want us to have nice things  copyright infringement. so she found the guy who ran it on facebook, and he gave her some log in to the site to download the tape, only the files didnt work, so she harassed him again, and her re did the files for her.

so when we were doing adult christmas this year (normally just stockings, but this year my parents bought both amy and i gifts because we arent working), my sister brings out her ipad and the grumpy old man starts huffing at the carolling children.

and that my friends, is a little christmas miracle.

christmas was good this year. super relaxed. we did adult christmas (mom, dad, amy, sean, sean’s mom, and me), which was extra fun this year because we got gifts! i sound like im 5, but like, we dont normally really do gifts to begin with, and i am extremely poor, so it was extra exciting. my parents gave me three pairs of pj pants that i desperately needed (a) the ones i wear all the time now have like 4 holes in them and b) i end up wearing pj pants a lot because my niece and nephew come down all the time so when i would previously just wander around pantless, i now wear pj pants), a nice night cream and day time moisturizer, some lip balm, foot cream, a pair of leggings because the ones i own are wearing out, some canvases and a few paint brushes since ive been painting more/selling some art lately, some grocery money, and a board game ive really wanted called “pandemic legacy” (something completely frivolous so i really wasnt expecting it). my sister gave me some planted herbs too, which was really nice an unexpected.

seans mom was much better today, had normal conversations and somewhat participated in activities! so that was a nice change. she is still a little… odd to be around. she is extremely smart but also very… slow? somehow? its a very weird combination. but she is nice and has been making an effort to talk about things at least somewhat related to the persons interest and allowing people to respond.  i think shes really lonely normally, because she lives alone an hour out of the city, and she has a strained relationship with her kids and very low mobility so i doubt she gets out much. so im glad she was here and not alone for christmas. i think thats why she talks so much, shes never got anyone to talk to except when shes here. all the things shes been thinking for the past month just spew out sometimes.

to cover the basics, we had dinner super early (2pm?) to accommodate jeff and brandy’s schedule. kids came over and opened their gifts and were typical little kids and just tore everything open. unless they could tell it was clothing, at which point they angrily threw it without opening it. darling children. dad made a delicious turkey dinner, as par usual, jeff and i did the dishes. jeff and all left, i accidentally took nighttime sinus medicine and took almost a 2 hour nap. played cards and the african strategy game seans mom got them (its fun! i cant for the life of me remember what its called! very simple to learn, but lots of strategy involved.) ate a bunch of chocolate. now its 230 in the morning and im writing a blog, because me.

that was basically the day!

im happy. its so nice to be happy and not stressed and not really… any negative thing at the holidays. i know thats rare for most people, and its been rare for me even though i clearly have a great and close family, so i appreciate it more. my heart still goes out to all the people hating everything right now though, because this time of year can definitely be a double edged sword, even for those without fucked up pasts and mental disorders.

hope you all coped well, talked to someone you loved, and had something delicious to eat (even if it was chinese food and movie theatre popcorn, eddie :P)

merry christmas/happy chanukah!

Going, going, gone

Standard

I’ve been sliding in and around some hypomanic tendencies this week, which is fabulous for school and very difficult for cohesive thoughts. My therapist kept asking me about my anxieties, what was making me so anxious to talk so quickly, to speed up up up and then calm. Shifting, twitching, laughing, fidgeting. But I don’t feel anxious, I just feel this weird energy in my limbs. Though I’m also anxious, because that’s what I do and that’s who I am and everything is due and I’m supposed to be better better better, but instead I’m just still me. But the weird tightness in my chest, that constant pressing feeling.. the rigidness of my muscles, the bracing for impact… I don’t know where it went. I don’t miss it. I do wish I could be more still.

The hypomania has come at a delightful time. I’ve gotten my thesis draft done. Thank fuck. Editing in progress. The next two weeks are crunch time for everything else. Easily doable, realistically. Just need to …do it.

I’ve been drinking again even though I said I would stop. Professionals always seem so concerned with my drinking. My friends dont. I binge drink. I dont see this as problematic. It felt nice to just go and be with everyone and not be seeing too bright colours or trying not to claw my skin off. The pot helped. going on a date tomorrow, maybe, they asked i said yes. probably a bad idea? with the mania? but it also makes me less of an anxious weirdo so, fuck it. why not.

I really want to write something here, something worthwhile or at least explanatory but I don’t have the words. I’m just buzzing from my fingertips to my temples. it feels like the skin on my forehead is being pulled back, my eyes are so wide; I can tell without looking at them. Kale always tells me you can tell when I’m manic by my crazy wide eyes.

Things are good, for the most part. moving forward. going out a lot, seeing lots of people, often, is helping. I’ve stopped sleeping, which is going to be problematic in a few days but for now just affords me a lot of time to watch tv and paint things and craft complex sculptures out of watercolor paper.

i love making things. nothing is calmer than making. it’s funny because im a shitty artist- no one explained the difference between being an artist and just being good at making shit to me before art school- but I am awesome at just making shit. I should have been a carpenter or a special effects make up artist or a shipbuilder. or something. can you imagine how calm life would be? i was thinking that while watching face off (this stupid stupid reality show. it was 5 am.) people watch those shows and are impressed by the talent: and sometimes, yes its mind blowing but i mostly sit there and am like i could totally do this. this is within the realm of reasonable things i could do. why dont i make things? i guess i just wish i had more opportunities to make useful objects. whats the point of sculpting something random to sit on a shelf forever.
funny, my art school education.

and my ridiculous thesis that the science world thinks is pretentious and the art world finds offensive i would imply empirical evidence would be needed.
life is funny. people are funny.

normalcy soon, i think.

dirty

Standard

i’ve had plans for like a week to go to the fair with a bunch of friends. i was excited about it even though its expensive as shit and im broke. long story short: it did not go well. kale had to drive me home because i was locked up and hyperventilating and crying in the corner.

theres this thing that happens to me when i’m at a sustained level of anxiety about life: i become horribly uncomfortable around things i cant control, especially large groups on animals or nature where all i can think about is all the animals living in the things beneath my feet. in this case there were livestock shows. theyre dirty and touching me and theres crowds and kids and shit everywhere and germs. everything is covered in germs and everything is so dirty and then i just cant handle it. im not entirely sure how this works given i used to (read: when i was 9) have this engrained notion that i was contaminated and i was contaminating everything i came in contact with… i spent hours scrubbing things other people would touch. now theres something about becoming contaminated, only not. more like.. just this need to be clean. scrubbed clean. its making being in my apartment with my messy roommate very difficult.

i know who my friends are out of the group of people i hang out with; its about half of them. i’m fairly certain the others sort of cringe when i show up places now because it doesnt go well. though usually i dont drag others away with me… i just cab away suddenly.

i came home and immediately showered. i scrubbed my skin so hard i feel like im missing layers of it. cleaned under my nails, washed my hair.
i feel dirty. anxious. its hard to explain.

this is when i used to scrub the shower with qtips.

im not supposed to do that.

i feel heavy, dirty, and broken today. its hard to want to be awake.

Breathe.

Standard

Today is better.
I don’t know if it will last, and I’m choosing not to stress about it.

I didn’t kill myself yesterday.
I was close. I was closer than I care to admit, closer than I ever remember being… including the days spent sitting in the ER.
Many people helped me not kill myself (my therapist, my mom, my brother, a random stranger who commented on this blog), but I did it. I stayed alive, in 60 second bursts, for the entire day. Through a fight. Through urges. Through fits and bursts. I did that.

I have coping skills. I have the doctors, the therapists, the support networks, the people to call, the order of things to do, the small goals. I have the things you are told to build when you end up in the ER. I have the things, and sometimes, the things are still not enough. Sometimes, there are just 60 second blocks, one after another, and you just try to get through each one. Little goals. Tick. Tock.
There is nothing to do but wait it out.

Today isnt like that.
I woke up bad, but not awful. I woke up (goal #1), I swallowed pills (goal #2). Stripped off the sweat drenched bulky sweaters and layers of clothing I had piled all over my body as protection from myself the night before.
I dont remember falling asleep. My body aches all over from the constant clenched tension I’d held in it all night.
I showered (goal #4). Didnt shave. Too much of a temptation (goal #5). Got dressed (goal #6)
I ate a peach: nutrients (goal #7).
I left the apartment (goal #8) and got a package from the post office. I came home and did skype therapy. Therapy makes me feel like I’m working on the problem, so therefore therapy makes me feel better, in and of itself. There no worse feeling that that of feeling like you are doing nothing to fix being horribly, crushingly, defeated.
I made tea. I hugged my roommate (goal #9). I ate vegetables (goal #7).
And then, something weird happened. I felt like maybe going outside would be ok.
I haven’t felt like maybe being outside would be ok in a long time. So I decided to act on it as fast as humanly possible. Ellie stopped by shortly there after so I dragged her to a nearby park with me. it was sunny but not hot. There was a water fountain: I love watching water fountains. They calm me. We stayed there for an hour and then everyone was going to trivia because its Tuesday. I love trivia. I was already outside. I was worried about the crowd because on Saturday I had to leave a party due to a massive panic attack turned suicidal downward spiral. Decided to go and sit at the table with Amber and Nicole because we need to show up like an hour early to save the table. Could leave when a crowd started to form if I needed. We got a good table and I got to sit by the wall… lots of space. Made it through trivia night. Last minute text to my boss and he came down to play, too. Sat in the dark park with my boss after 11pm. Talked about work. talked about life. talked about where things were at. He walked me home. (goals #10-72384238)
I’m going in to sign my contract tomorrow… start health benefits. In a week or two I’ll start working only the hours I feel up to being there, and not being there when I’m not. I’m extremely lucky to have such a supportive amazing workplace. I wish I could just give one to everyone who goes through any of this. I dont know how I’d have survived without it.

Todays a good day. Maybe tomorrow will be too. Maybe it wont. But I’m grateful for the pause; the reminder. The intake of air.

Crush

Standard

Things have changed.

I know this should be the easy part. The part where I just simply recount the past couple weeks of soul crippling depression in bits and fragments… some sort of counter part to the ‘psychosis’ post from a few weeks ago. But it isnt. Its never easy for me to admit this half of the spectrum; the one I feel like I should be able to control. Its been here longer, and it takes up much more space inside me. It is a part of me in a much more tangible, recognizable way: the pitch, pitch black.

Last week, I was forcibly taken to the ER because I was suicidal and the people closest to me were gravely concerned for my well being. I’ve hinted and mentioned and touched on this fact, and the circumstances leading up to it in bits and pieces. It was (is?) a bleak period for me. there is something so inherently difficult to explain here… some coming to of an innate, constant reality that just broke me.

As a mental health advocate, its an incredibly taboo thing for me to say, but I’m going to say it: the realization that I was, in fact, bipolar, or at the very least not “just” anxious has been, at times, unbearable for me. It is not that I don’t value people with these heavy diagnoses. I do, I really, truly do. people that have these problems and cope. That make it through their lives and do what they want to do, who be who they want to be, who are good, amazing, wonderful people who better the world. The people who have such strength and fortitude to survive: they are my heroes, in every sense of the word. But lately, or maybe always, I have a deep seeded doubt that this is something I can ever personally accomplish. And that is crushing.

I cannot pretend my mental illness is not a burden: it is. it is painful. it is heavy. it is a boulder that sits on my chest and the only thing keeping it from crushing through my rib cage is the strength of my finger tips and sheer force of will. It is not easy. It is not pleasant. It is not without struggle.

I spend a lot of time fighting to not be defined by that struggle. A lot of time. So it is painful for me to admit that in the face of recognizing that that struggle was something serious, something permanent, something that wont necessarily improve with continuous hard work and diligent effort… it broke me. Looking at the state I was in, and knowing, unequivocally, that there was nothing I could do to stop it, to stop myself from being back here again, that I was already doing everything anyone could suggest… was devastating.

I work hard at being mentally healthy.
I go to therapy. I work on things that my psychologist tells me to work on. I have insight into why things are happening and what is causing what. I do my best to reason and talk through things. I use all my CBT training. I have a psychiatrist. A good one. I take the pills I’m told to take. I go to my appointments. I modify my diet. I do the stupid routines and sleep hygiene. I work. I try. There is literally nothing I could be doing right now to work any harder at this, aside from being better at doing nothing at all.

And this still happened.

This horrible, crushing, terrible thing still happened.

I cant work it away.
I have always been able to work it away.

As stupid, or misguided as it may be, having a diagnosis of depression and anxiety, as opposed to bipolar or schizoaffective, or whatever label it ends up being, made me feel like I had more control. It made me feel like I could work my way through it. It made me feel like if I just tried harder I could get somewhere, because I have always held that sliver of hope. That hope that so many people have lost.
But, for some reason, for whatever reason, the bipolar label makes me feel like I’ve lost that. And the switching of labels.. the oh your bipolar, oh nevermind you’ve got anxiety, oh i meant ptsd, oh no, “just” depression… it feels like I was robbed of time to adjust.

I know its just a word. A label meant to help those who help me; not one to define me or who I am. But it matters. I have very separate emotions attached to each. and they may be unreasonable and they may be the byproduct of stigma and internalization of bullshit, but they are mine and i have a right to work through them.

I have a right to be devastated by apparently old news. I am devastated by old news. My finger tips can only hold some much weigh before they give. The boulder is going to fall, some of the time. My ribs are going to have to learn how to take it.

I have a right to be tired. I have a right to let myself be crushed.